Man Seated Next to Unaccompanied Minors Forced to Change Seats
A man traveling from to Brisbane from Sydney was asked to change his seats so he would no longer be next to two unaccompanied minors on a Virgin Australia flight.
A flight attendant asked 33-year-old Sydney fireman Johnny McGirr to switch seats with a woman after he was seated next to two young boys on an April flight, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. McGirr said he estimated the boys to be ten years old. He wrote about his experience in a blog post titled "My Virgin experience as a Paedophile!"
He said he was approached and told he had to move. When he asked why, he was told, "Well, because you are male, you can't be seated next to two unaccompanied minors." He said he thought the request was sexist and discriminatory, but was told it was the airline's policy.
"As I collected my things from the seat pocket I could see people looking at me and wondering why I was being moved. I was red from embarrassment. I felt like I was being judged and found guilty of a crime I hadn't committed. It was an uncomfortable situation and I felt ashamed which was a weird feeling because I hadn't done anything wrong."
McGirr wrote to the airline to complain.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Australia confirmed the policy to the paper and said while the airline did not want to offend male passengers, its priority was the safety of children. "In our experience, most guests thoroughly understand that the welfare of the child is our priority," she said.
The spokeswoman told the newspaper that staff usually tried to keep the seat empty but, when that was not possible, a woman was seated next to the child.
On the airline's blog and on Twitter, Virgin Australia said: "We understand the concerns raised around our policy for children traveling alone, a long standing policy initially based on customer feedback.
"In light of recent feedback, we're now reviewing this policy. Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way."
ABC News was unable to reach Virgin Australia directly for comment.